Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dallas Hot Wieners. There Is a New Sauced Dog in Albany.

I have been meaning to get over to Dallas Hot Wieners for quite a while and finally got around to it this afternoon. Dallas Hot Wieners is a Kingston/Saugerties institution from way back that has recently opened up shop in one of the store fronts at the Knick (Pepsi, Times Union, bah... whatever.).

Dallas Hot Wieners is sort of like the Hot Dog Charlie's of the Hudson Valley, i.e. a small, Greek-run hot dog chain offering wieners with meat sauce (obligatory top secret recipe), mustard, and onions (among many other things). As I fancy myself as something of a local hot dog-ologist, a close examination of this product could wait no longer.

I found the interior of the restaurant to be spic and span with bonus points for the counter/stool arrangement a la Famous Lunch. I was there at around half past noon and there was a brisk  (but sort of light...) business moving through.

I ordered a bunch of items to go as I had my two savage minions (children) in tow and I thought that unleashing them, sauced hot dogs in hand, on the unsuspecting patrons would not go over too well on the occasion of my first visit.

My order consisted of a couple of the "Dallas Hot Wieners," a couple plain dogs, a chicken patty sandwich (I have a weird penchant for foods that remind me of the grade school cafeteria), some fries, and a bowl of Manhattan clam chowder (for the wife, she is a red chowder fiend).

My order was prepared fairly quickly (maybe 5 minutes) and it came all snug and neatly packed in a box. I found the box of hot dogs to be strangely pleasing, almost zen like. I am pretty sure that my personal conception of heaven involves boxes of neatly wrapped hot dogs.

Each hot dog is skillfully wrapped in a piece of wax paper which is actually a pretty effective way of transporting a to-go wiener with meat sauce. Plus, it looks cool.

Here is a plain wiener that I got for my 3 year, 10 month old blond ball of fury (darling Giblet) who has decided that most condiments consist of radioactive demons blood or some other foul excreta of the whorey netherworld. She will accept a bit of Heinz, but only if she witnesses it leave the original container herself as she doesn't trust me not to slip something else in on her. Bless her heart.

Anyhow, the hot dogs are on the small side. Not nearly as small as my beloved 3" dinky dogs (like those from Famous or Charlie's) but not quite as big as a Stewart's deli dog. These particular wieners were sort of about the same size of the Rhode Island "New York System" wieners that I sampled at the Big E the other week. The bread delivery vehicle is a workaday hot dog bun that they keep in a steamer.

As far as the flavor of the actual sausage (I tasted a bit plain), the Dallas Hot wieners by themselves are very underwhelming. These are dirty water dogs (they are fished out of a big pot of hot water and hot dogs when you order) which is not my preferred cooking method for this sort of hot dog.

I prefer my Stewart's (skinless) deli dogs steamed (definitely not off of a hot dog roller, read all about that here), but for the sort of assertive natural casing frank usually used in this sort of application I prefer a flat top/roller cooked dog. The taste and smell of hot dog water is pretty strong on these bad boys. Aside from that, these wieners are almost bland. This is one of the first times that I have ever had a hot dog that I thought could have used a bit more salt. The casing is a bit flaccid as well, absolutely no snap or pop.

The actual "Dallas Hot Wiener" comes with their secret recipe meat sauce, brown deli mustard, and a bit of chopped onion. I was especially interested in seeing how the meat sauce stands up to our Capital Region style classics (Gus, Famous, Charlie's). I have heard a lot of good things about the stuff.

The sauce is fairly thin and the crumb of the beef is very fine, I bet they hit the stuff with an immersion blender. It is somehow less "meaty" than other meat sauces that I have had, i.e. more sauce and less meat. The spice mix is pretty interesting, I could have sworn that I tasted a bit of curry powder. This wouldn't actually surprise me too much as many North Country Michigan (a style I experimented with the other week) sauce recipes call for curry powder and this could be a related style. I would not bet my hat on the curry powder thing though, it could just be an aggressive amount of cumin, cinnamon, and chili powder. Also of note is the heat level of this stuff, it is pretty aggressively spicy for a hot dog meat sauce. There is definitely a cayenne pepper back.

You get a thin slather of brown deli mustard and a relatively small amount of chopped onion (much less than at Famous or Charlie's) under the sauce. Taken together you get a good mix of spice and heat from the sauce and a vinegar punch from the mustard. The onion is almost a non-factor in the overall flavor.

My verdict is that the Dallas Hot Wiener is definitely an interesting change of pace. I think that if they went native and started using some of the Helmbold's medium franks (or even contracted with Rolf's for a tailor made sausage) then the product would be improved exponentially.

While eating these wieners I kind of felt like I was cheating on Hot Dog Charlie's (my local hot dog vendor of choice since birth). Let us just say that I will not be changing my avowed hot dog loyalty based on the Dallas Hot Wiener experience. It was an interesting change in pace (and my family actually really enjoyed the other non-hot dog offerings) but we are blessed locally with our own superlative vendors of the hot dog/meat sauce/onion/mustard combination.

All this said, I wish Dallas Hot Wieners nothing but success. The staff was friendly, the dining area was immaculately clean, the service was quick, the menu is expansive for a hot dog joint, and the prices are pretty dirt cheap. I would recommend giving the place a whirl if you are so inclined, I don't think you will be disappointed. Also, it is always good to see how other regions take their meat sauce dogs.

My opinion is still that the small hot dogs served at Hot Dog Charlie's and Famous Lunch are the finest examples of this form in the entire world. It will be very hard to convince me otherwise.

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